More Scottish Tatties For Christmas Dinner
21st December 2016
There could be more Scottish tatties on Christmas dinner tables across the UK this year. While there was a 5% drop in UK production this season, 2016 was a better year for potatoes up north. Production is up 9% on 2015 with export figures also looking very healthy; early SASA data shows non EU seed exports from July to November up 40%.
Scottish yields per hectare were above the GB average this year – 46.4t/ha compared to 44.9t/ha, however this year’s Scottish average is still down on the last couple of years (tonnage per hectare was 47.8 in 2015 and 46.9 in 2014). The increase in production can be attributed to an increase in planted area, up to 26,300 ha from 23,600 ha, resulting in output of 1,223,000 tonnes.
AHDB Potatoes Analyst Arthur Marshall, says: “With the smaller GB crop this year, prices have already reacted and are at higher levels than last year. So, for example, Scottish grade 1 packing whites were averaging £208/t ex-farm in the first week of December, compared to £155/t in the same week a year ago.
“Also, the price differential between Scottish and English packing whites, and Maris Piper, is widening – while Scottish prices have been rising, English prices have been rising faster. The wider the difference gets, the more likely Scottish supplies are to head south as English-based buyers are more likely to look towards cheaper Scottish supplies.”
After Maris Piper, the most popular potato planted in Scotland this year was Hermes, which is generally destined for more exotic locations.
Hermes remains a popular seed potato as it is one of our top export varieties,” Rob Burns, AHDB’s Head of Crop Trade Market Development, explains. “It grows particularly well in hot climates and so is appreciated by growers in Egypt who are dealing with very different conditions to the UK farmers. They need varieties which grow well in high temperatures and are free from diseases such as Dickeya which can cause major crop failure in hot climates.”
SASA data shows that over 54,000 tonnes of Scottish seed has been shipped to non-EU countries so far this year, up on around 39,000 in same period last year (July to November). The majority of Scotland’s seed potatoes are exported to Egypt with over 50,000 exported there last year, however AHDB is keen both to open new markets and increase volumes going to existing markets to ensure we are less dependent on Egypt of export income.
Alistair Melrose, Chair of AHDB’s Seed and Export Committee, says: “Trade dialogue has ensured that our largest export market Egypt continues to increase GB seed imports year on year. However we are exporting seed to over 50 countries and better utilising those markets offers opportunities for our export community to spread risk and capitalise on varietal requirements and climate/season differences. I’m pleased that the new AHDB strategy is focusing on getting more Scottish seed out to these existing markets, as well as continuing to open new markets like Kenya.”
Alistair is also keen to ensure that potatoes are appreciated here in Scotland and the UK, as well as by international consumers. Like many in the Scottish potato industry he has been supporting AHDB Potatoes’ More Than a Bit on the Side campaign to educate consumers about the health benefits of the crop.
“A potato is a naturally fat-free source of fibre and vitamin B6; it has more potassium than three bananas; has a lower environmental impact than rice and pasta; and contributes £4.7bn to the GB economy,” says Alistair. “Next year we’ll be continuing to promote this messages to UK shoppers, to ensure our potato industry continues to thrive.”
AHDB is a statutory levy board, funded by farmers, growers and others in the supply chain. Its purpose is to equip levy payers with independent, evidence-based information and tools to grow, become more competitive and sustainable. Established in 2008 and classified as a Non-Departmental Public Body, it supports the following industries: meat and livestock (cattle, sheep and pigs) in England; horticulture, milk and potatoes in Great Britain; and cereals and oilseeds in the UK. AHDB’s remit covers 75 per cent of total UK agricultural output. Further information on AHDB can be found at www.ahdb.org.uk